The presidential election has come and gone, with a winner emerging in the person of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. Although the two major contestants in the just concluded poll, Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are both Northerners, Muslims and Fulanis, the hate, bile, acerbic and caustic utterances from their supporters during the campaigns were no different from the 2015 experience.
I had expected that our fault lines of ethnicity and religion will not be exposed in the 2019 presidential poll considering the fact that the two leading candidates share the same ethnicity and religion but I was labouring under a delusion. The campaign was as acrimonious and bitter as the 2015 electioneering process, which was mainly a battle between the North and South.
In this election, majority of Southerners, including those who had demonised and labelled the Fulani tribe as the worst thing since Adolf Hitler, adopted Atiku as their presidential candidate. In the former vice president they saw a messiah with a sweet-smelling fragrance that even his Fulani background could not desecrate. President Buhari, on the other hand, was projected by his detractors as a Northern candidate whose mission is to establish a Fulani caliphate in Nigeria.
In the end, after a hard fought battle, Buhari was re-elected president for another four years, and contrary to what he had been painted to look like, the president stunned Nigerians. Putting on his statesman toga, he appealed to his supporters not to gloat or incite the opposition.
It, however, seems the National chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, probably didn’t get the president’s admonition right. The former governor of Edo State has been busy rubbing it on Senate President Bukola Saraki’s face. But who would blame him? Like we would always ask in the local parlance, “If he no gloat, na wetin he gain?” The Senate President had been a thorn in the flesh of the APC. Even when he defected to the PDP, he insisted on remaining Senate president despite that his new party was in the minority in the Senate. The APC screamed and threatened Saraki with impeachment, all to no avail, as he held on tight to the Senate presidency.
I guess Saraki’s defeat and demystification in the Kwara National Assembly elections and the final burial rite of the PDP in last Saturday’s governorship poll in the state must have been one of APC and Oshiomole’s greatest moments. The APC national chairman quipped recently that Saraki’s electoral defeat was sweeter than impeachment. But the party chairman at this juncture should just let sleeping dogs lie and heed the president’s advice not to gloat or incite the opposition.
Sometimes, I wonder what it would have looked like if it had been the other way round: that it was Atiku who won the presidential poll. Senator Dino Melaye would have released another hit single mocking and deriding the president and his supporters. Senator Ben Bruce would have posted a disdainful tweet, laughing the ruling party to scorn. Also, their horde of supporters on the social media would have set the country’s public space on overdrive.
Another thing I find intriguing about this election is that we are gradually preparing the funeral rites of the ‘godfather syndrome’ in Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who likes playing god by telling us who to vote for has also been demystified. Senators Godswill Akpabio, Saraki, George Akume and Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State would not have believed in their wildest dreams that they would lose their senatorial elections to supposed political nonentities in their respective states. From the results of the presidential elections in the Southwest, it appears the 2019 electoral process marks the beginning of the end of Bola Tinubu’s hold and control in the region.
Whatever the case may be, the president has been handed another four years by Nigerians, and it is time to make a fresh start. It is instructive to note that legacy is sought by presidents but hard to evaluate for years to come. The president has been given another chance to write his name in gold and leave a lasting legacy. No more excuses. President Buhari’s first task is to unite the country after a divisive and fractious campaign in which the major actors in the opposition camp were singing the ‘do-or-die’ song.
The president should also avoid some of the pitfalls and lethargy in his second term. Ministers should be appointed immediately after his swearing in- a week at most, and his new cabinet should be constituted in no less a time.
Ninety per cent of the present crop of ministers should not make the next cabinet. We have too many ghost ministers in the present cabinet and how they even lasted for four years is the 8th wonder of the world. The Power, Works and Housing ministry should be unbundled. Babatunde Fashola should continue his good work in the Works ministry but the Power and Housing ministries should be given to other competent persons. Presently, the ministry of Housing is suffering from serious lack of attention.
President Buhari should relinquish his position as the minister of Petroleum Resources because it is quite obvious that experiment didn’t work. Board appointments should not take another two years as loyal party members need to be compensated. Pussyfooting on appointments and major decision should end with this first term. There should be a spread to reflect the country’s major fault lines – religion and ethnicity- in all major appointments. It should reflect in the security and economic team.
It is not every day that we get a second time to make first impression. President Buhari has been given that chance. He has two choices: to write his name and legacy in gold or be remembered as a president who flunked his lines when he had been given enough opportunity. It is high time president Buhari turned his poetry into the prose of governance. The president owes it to himself, his supporters and the entire Nigerians to deliver good governance in his second term in office as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.